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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Scam Round Up: Teachers targeted in scam and more 

    Scam Round Up: Teachers targeted in scam and more

    By Greg Collier

    Today, we’re presenting our readers with three scams that, while not new, deserve to be reviewed.

    ***

    Reports from Pennsylvania are saying that the Mystery Shopper or Secret Shopper scam is making the rounds again. Many retail chains do employ secret shoppers who go around to the various stores and rate their experience. However, scammers would have you believe these positions are plentiful, which they are not.

    In Pennsylvania, reports there state that victims of the scam are being given fake checks to deposit in their bank accounts. They’re then asked to purchase hundreds of dollars in gift cards using the money from the fake checks. The victims are then asked to give the gift card numbers to their fake employer. By the time the victim’s bank notices the check is fake, the scammers have made off with the amount of the gift cards, while the victim is responsible for the amount of the fake check to their bank.

    Remember, no legitimate employer will ever ask you to deposit money into your bank account that is supposed to be used for business purposes.

    ***

    Our next scam comes to us from the Jacksonville, Florida-area. Reports there state that a police impersonation scam is ongoing there. In this particular police impersonation scam, the scammers are posing as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. The scammers tell their victims that a box of drugs intended for the victim was intercepted. In order to avoid arrest, the victims are asked to make some kind of payment.

    If you receive a phone call like this, it’s recommended not to give the caller any personal information before hanging up.

    Again, no law enforcement department or agency is going to call you and threaten you with arrest if you don’t make a payment to them.

    ***

    Lastly, we have another police impersonation scam, and it’s the most common one. What’s different about this scam is who the scammers are targeting.

    Reports out of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-area are reporting an increase in the jury duty scam. This is where the scammers pose as local police and tell their victims they missed jury duty and a warrant is about to be issued for their arrest. Of course, a payment over the phone will make the warrant magically disappear.

    Like we said, this is hardly a new scam, but the scammers are specifically targeting school teachers in the Pittsburgh-area. The scammers have even been calling schools and are asking to be patched in to teachers while they’re teaching class.

    The report doesn’t say why scammers are targeting teachers, but if we had to hazard a guess, they’re targeting a profession where teachers usually have their hands full with what’s going on in the classroom and could be distracted easily by the scammers.

    When it comes to matters concerning jury duty, all communication is usually done through postal mail and not over the phone.

    ***

    These three scams can happen at anytime, anywhere in the country. Hopefully, we’ve armed you with enough knowledge to protect yourself.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , secret shopper   

    Scammers offer ‘bonuses’ to victims 

    Scammers offer 'bonuses' to victims

    By Greg Collier

    San Antonio, Texas, is most famous for being the site of The Alamo. However, what many people outside of Texas don’t realize is San Antonio is not only the second-largest city in Texas, but it’s also the 7th largest city in the United States. We bring this up to show that when a scam show up in San Antonio, there’s a good chance that the scam will be showing up in other areas of the country.

    In this case, the Better Business Bureau of San Antonio is reporting a dramatic increase in job scams in the area. The main difference between this and previous job scams is that scammers are using honey instead of vinegar to get their victims to react quicker.

    For example, a woman in San Antonio thought she had been hired as a secret shopper. She was instructed to buy numerous gift cards from a store and evaluate the store. To get the victim to complete her task more quickly, the scammers told the victim that if she completed her task within 12 hours, she’d get a $200 bonus. Scammers may also be doing this to try to occupy the victim’s time, so they have no time to figure out that the whole procedure is a scam. The BBB has said that the scammers are even texting the victims continuously to make sure they’re completing the task, keeping them even more occupied. Unfortunately, the victim completed her task per the scammer’s orders. She was paid with a phony check that later bounced, leaving her thousands of dollars in debt to the bank, while the scammers made off with the gift card money.

    Any time a potential employer asks you to use your own funds or deposit a check for business purposes into your account, that should serve as a red flag that the job is probably a scam. The same goes for being hired without being interviewed.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets 

    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets

    By Greg Collier

    In yesterday’s post, we discussed a job scam that seemed to be picking up in activity during the holiday season, that was the reshipping scam. Now, it’s being reported that in some parts of the country that another old job scam is ramping up during the holidays, and that is the secret shopper scam.

    Secret shopper is actually a real position with many major brick and mortar retailers. They’re employed by the retailers to go to the various store locations and rate the performance of the store and its employees. However, it’s not as common a position that the scammers would have you believe. Scammers post ads for secret shopper positions year round, but like most scammers, they’re really looking to target those looking to add to their holiday income.

    The Charlotte, North Carolina area has reported an uptick in secret shopper scams. Residents there have been responding to the ads for secret shoppers, only to realize it’s a scam. Victims are being sent checks for thousands of dollars and are told to deposit the check into their bank accounts. They are then instructed to keep $300 for themselves and $50 for gas. The rest of the money is supposed to be used to buy Walmart gift cards to supposedly rate Walmart’s service. The victim is supposed to give the numbers from the gift card to their supposed employer.

    The problem with this scam is that the checks are fake. By the time the victim’s bank realizes the check is fraudulent, the scammers have already made off with the money that was put on the gift cards. This leaves the victim holding the bag when it comes to reimbursing the bank for the amount of the phony check.

    No legitimate employer will ever ask you to deposit funds that are supposed to be used for business into your account. If they do, that’s a good indication that the check is fraudulent. Another red flag is almost anything to do with gift cards. Unless they’re being used as an actual gift, gift card numbers should never be given to anyone over the phone.

    If you really want to find a legitimate secret shopper position, your best bet is to check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at their website.

     
  • Geebo 8:06 am on July 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Secret Shopper scam tries to streamline 

    By Greg Collier

    Secret Shopper scams are back again. To be honest, they never really go away, but if the scammers were to be believed there would be more secret shoppers than actual shoppers.

    Being a secret shopper is an actual job. Many retailers hire secret shoppers to go to their various stores and review the shopping and customer service experience. It’s a job that’s been around for decades, too. When I was in my late teens, I was working a retail job and was admonished by my manager because a secret shopper caught me not wearing my name tag. You better believe I wore my name tag from then on.

    The secret shopper position has long been a favorite tool of scammers. In this latest case reported by the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa, scammers are emailing victims telling them that they’ve already been approved to be a secret shopper. If a victim responds to the email, they’re then told that they need to review a money wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The victims are then sent a phony check. They’re instructed to deposit the check in their bank account. Then the victim is told to use the wire transfer service to transfer most of the money back to their boss and are told to keep part of the check as payment. Since the check is fraudulent, the victim who deposited it in their bank account is responsible for the check’s amount and any fees to their bank. Yet, the scammers have made off with the majority of the value of the check.

    This is the most streamlined version of this scam we’ve seen in quite some time. Typically, scammers will send you the fake check, have you deposit it, have you buy some items at whatever store they’re imitating, then have you send back the difference. This version of the scam goes right to the heart of the matter and has victims just essentially send the scammers money.

    As we have stated, secret shopper is an actual paying job. However, no company is going to email you out of the blue to tell you that you’ve been chosen. The position is actually a lot more rare than the scammers make it out to be. That’s not even taking into consideration that no real employer will ask you to deposit a check in your own bank account before spending it. And any time money transfer services or gift cards are involved, you can assume that everything about the job is a scam.

    If you want to actually become a secret shopper, you can check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at their website.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , secret shopper   

    Scammers still use old-school means to find victims 

    Scammers still use old-school means to find victims

    Back in the days before the internet, it was somewhat of a special occasion to receive something in the mail that wasn’t a bill or junk mail. Apparently, it seems that some scammers are still using snail mail in order to find more victims. The thinking here might be that by using the postal mail it gives the scam more of an air of legitimacy than an online scam. However, postal scams can be just as devastating as online scams. Although, the red flags can be just as recognizable.

    A man in Virginia recently received a letter in the mail with a check attached to it. The letter offered a secret shopper position with directions to cash the check before buying Nike gift cards and keeping $450 for himself. Then he would have to take pictures of the front and back of the gift cards to email back to the ‘company’.

    As you’ve probably surmised, the check was fake. The man even said that the check looked like a fake to him. If he were to deposit this check, he would be responsible for the amount to his bank once they found out the check was fake. That’s not even taking into account that companies that employ secret shoppers don’t send out unsolicited mail to random people. Not to mention that any transaction that’s not for a gift card’s intended purpose is almost guaranteed to be a scam.

    Thankfully, the man noticed some other red flags as well. One was that the supposed company that was employing secret shoppers didn’t exist. He found this out after a quick web search. Then he noticed that the name of the company on the check didn’t match that of the company who claimed to have sent it.

    The more concerning part is that the scammers tried following up with the man over text message. They had both his name and his phone number.

    If you receive one of these secret shopper letters, just throw it out. If you receive a text message related to the letter just ignore it. Any response to the scammers will let them know that there is a real person on the other end who could potentially be targeted for more scams.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , money orders, , , secret shopper   

    New scam switches out fake money orders for checks 

    New scam switches out fake money orders for checks

    One of the more common online scams is the mystery shopper scam. Mystery shopper is a real position. They are people hired by retail outlets to go into their stores and rate the customer service of each individual store. However, the job isn’t as common as most scammers would have you believe.

    In the mystery shopper scam, scammers will pose as these retailers and pretend to hire their victims. The scammers will then send a fake check to the victim and instruct them to deposit the check. The scammers then instruct the victim to go buy some gift cards with the money and the victim can keep what’s leftover. The victim doesn’t often find out they were scammed until the fake check bounces in their bank account and the victim is held responsible by the bank for the difference.

    A report out of North Carolina is claiming that scammers are now using fake US Postal Service money orders instead of fake checks to pull off this scam. While the fake form of payment has changed, the results are still the same. If a victim deposits the phony money orders into their account they will be responsible for the damages once the bank realizes the money orders are fake.

    As we previously stated, mystery shopper is a legitimate position. However, in order to become one, you have to become certified with the Mystery Shoppers Association and you have to contact them. They will never contact anyone out of the blue.

    Also, please keep in mind that no legitimate employer will have you deposit a check or money order into your personal account that’s supposed to be used for business purposes later. This is almost a sure sign of an employment scam.

    If you receive what you suspect is a phony US Postal money order, you can take it to your local post office, and they will be able to determine if it’s real or not.

     
  • Geebo 8:54 am on May 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , secret shopper   

    Secret shopper scam gets a COVID revamp 

    Secret shopper scam gets a COVID revamp

    With the way the economy has reacted to the current pandemic many people now find themselves unemployed. Some of these people will turn to non-traditional jobs to try to make ends meet. This could cause people to apply for jobs that really aren’t jobs at all but well-organized scams. One job scam that seems to continually claim victims id the secret shopper scam.

    Now, there are legitimate secret shopper positions offered by many retailers. There just aren’t as many as you might think after seeing all the ads online for secret shopper job offers. In the secret shopper scam, you’re almost guaranteed to be ‘hired’. You’ll then be sent a phony check to cover your expenses and payment. You’ll be asked to deposit the check at your bank, use some of the money for the ‘job’ before being asked to send the excess amount back to the scammer. As with any scam involving phony checks, once your bank discovers the check is a fake, you’ll be responsible for the entire amount of the check to your bank while the scammers are long gone with your money.

    Now, with scammers ramping up their activities during the pandemic, the secret shopper scam has gotten a coronavirus twist. At least one report has stated that jobs are being offered online to become a social distancing compliance auditor. The phony job offer not only asks you to go to a retailer to rate customer service as a secret shopper but also rate their adherence to social distancing guidelines. However, just like the secret shopper scam, the check you’ll receive for payment is a fake.

    As we said, there are real positions for secret shoppers across America. If you’d like to inquire about one of these positions you can do so through the website of the Mystery Shopper Providers of America.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , secret shopper,   

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas 

    The secret shopper scam returns in time for Christmas

    Another potential scam that we see return around the holidays is the secret shopper scam. While many retail outlets do have positions for secret shoppers, there are more chances of you being scammed then getting a legitimate job. The Delaware State Police are warning that the scam has appeared in their area. Considering that Delaware has no sales tax, they are a prime target for such a scam. With most secret shopper scams, the scammers will either try to get you to pay a fee to become one. Or they’ll send you a phony check to deposit in your account then use it for shopping before wiring them back the balance. These are the hallmarks of a scam.

    In other scam news, police in Richland, Washington are warning that the rental scam is occurring in their area through Facebook Marketplace. The rental scam is one of the oldest online scams there is. The scammers will post a home or apartment for rent at a below-market rate. They’ll then try to get you to rent the property without seeing it and pressure you into wiring them a deposit. If you’re looking to rent a property, always be suspicious of any of these signs.

    Lastly, in Southern California, a water department there is warning customers about a company that is claiming their water is potentially contaminated. While the news article about the claims doesn’t mention it, this could potentially be a high-pressure way of trying to get residents to buy expensive equipment for their home that they may not need. Any company can put an official-sounding prefix in their name like American or National, but that doesn’t mean they’re not out to take your money.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , secret shopper, ,   

    New scam threatens your family with violence! 

    New scam threatens your family with violence!

    This scam we just recently heard of is so disturbing we don’t even have a clever name for it yet. In it, some scammers called a man from Brooklyn, New York, threatening to kill the man and his family if he didn’t pay them money. The scammers claimed to be from a criminal cartel and then sent the man explicitly violent pictures with claims of this is what would happen to his family if he didn’t pay. The man was hesitant to go to the police, however, he did contact a local community leader who was able to contact authorities. Police say that they have received other reports of this scam and that the scammers are casting wide nets trying to find victims. If you receive one of these calls you should hang up and contact police.

    Social security scams are still on the rise due to the fact that a number of senior citizens aren’t aware of the many scams that specifically target them. The Washington Post is reporting on a scam where the scammers posed as the Social Security Administration (SSA) and threatened to cut off the benefits of a woman in the early stage of Alzheimer’s. She was instructed to buy over $3,000 in gift cards from various merchants to have her benefits restored. One store even tried to warn her that this sounded like a scam. The Post article has a great checklist of things you can do to help senior relatives avoid this scam including sharing these stories every time they come up in the news. They also provide a link to the Federal Trade Commission’s website that has information about all types of impostor scams.

    The last scam for today is a reminder that most scams just don’t go away. We’ve talked about the secret shopper scam many times now. In this scam, ads will be posted hiring for secret shoppers which is a legitimate position with many retail companies. However, the con artists placing these ads online are trying to swindle you by sending you phony checks to use in your new position. They’ll tell you to deposit the checks to use in your secret shopping and send a portion of the check back. Once the bank finds out that the check is a fraud the victim who deposited the check into their bank account is responsible for the entire amount. This recently happened to a college student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. If you’re considering a secret shopping position always consult with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s website before giving out your personal information.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Are secret shoppers and Instagram deals for real? 

    Instagram counterfeits, secret shopping jobs, and Amazon to open Nashville hub

    If you’ve ever been approached by a street vendor to buy a ‘genuine’ Rolex watch, you’re probably already familiar with the counterfeit market. With the advance of digital technology those type of vendors have moved online and seem to be particularly prolific on Instagram. According to NBC News, Instagram is full of phony vendors selling knock-off products while claiming to be such brand names as Gucci, Chanel, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and Dior. NBC advises you should be wary of ads that contain the word ‘replica’ or vendors that instruct you to communicate with them over encrypted messaging apps.

    ***

    Previously, we’ve warned about secret shopper scams many times. In too many cases ads for these type of jobs are scams designed to get you to deposit phony checks and wire back the difference to scammers. Once the check is found to be phony by your bank you could be on the hook for the full amount of the check. So are there real secret shopper jobs out there? Yes, according to CNBC who direct you to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. CNBC goes on to call the MSPA the BBB of Mystery Shopping. However, you should also be aware that secret shopper jobs are better suited for supplemental income rather than as a full-time position.

    ***

    Amazon is set to open a retail operations hub in the Nashville Metro area. This has not been without controversy as Amazon has been promised a $17.5 million incentive package by the Metro Nashville Council in exchange for 5,000 jobs. This appears to be a routine tactic for Amazon as they previously pulled out of New York City after many vocal opponents of the plan objected to the incentives that the city and state were promising Amazon as they felt the funds could be better spent elsewhere. It remains to be seen if this will start to become a trend elsewhere in the country.

     
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